If you are considering telepractice, you probably have a million questions swirling through your mind. Are you wondering where to begin? What types of telepractice platforms are out there? Which one is best? Where do clinicians find materials? How do you set up your office?
Have you considered reaching out to someone who offers telepractice consulting services to help people, like you, become familiar with and prepared for telepractice? What are questions and qualifications you should consider when shopping for a telepractice consultant? That is the topic of this post.
When considering paying someone to assist you in learning about telepractice, I strongly encourage you to ask the following questions:
- How many years has the consultant been a practicing Speech/Language Pathologist?
This question has everything to do with telepractice since it provides a large window of experience within the field transferring directly to Telepractice. Without experienced, SLP skills, it is difficult to address tasks such as conducting virtual- assessments, IEP meetings, staff collaboration meetings, behavior management, etc. I suggest looking for someone with at least 8-10 years of onsite, SLP experience.
- Is the consultant a practicing member of ASHA’s Special Interest Group 18: Telepractice?
This is important because of the accuracy of the information provided via SIG18’s Community forum. Responses via social media may not be accurate or the most up-to-date and should be read with caution. Having a connection to SIG18 offers a platform to access the most current and accurate information. The consultant should be up-to-date on current topics and information to best serve you!
- What type of telepractice training has the consultant had?
It is very important to look for someone who has attended a national training, not just continuing education courses or virtual webinars! Ask the consultant if they attended the American Telemedicine Association (ATA)- Accredited training in the U.S. – the Telepractice Training Program in Bangor, Maine or if they graduated from a university offering a telepractice program like those offered in Kentucky or MA. If not, then I suggest you continue shopping for a consultant.
Why is this so important? Practicing as an SLP does not automatically qualify you to provide telepractice. Telepractice is its own animal. There are many facets to this type of service delivery model in order to provide services ethically, keeping services client-centered, and professional. If the consultant does not have this type of training, continue looking. To provide the level of professionalism and to be fully prepared to take on a caseload of clients, you will want someone with this background.
- How many years has the consultant been providing telepractice services?
This is a crucial question! If you are working with a consultant that has only been providing telepractice services for a few years, you will receive training equivalent to level of experience. Look for someone with 5 or more years of experience providing telepractice. The more experience a consultant has, the more knowledge s/he can offer, the better prepared you will be!
- How many years has the consultant been providing telepractice trainings?
Does the consultant have experience training individuals, small groups, or large groups? Training clients to provide telepractice services is not to be taken lightly. A consultant should provide you with information about the training areas s/he will cover and explain how it will benefit you during service delivery. Look for someone with at least 3-5 years of experience training others in a 1:1 setting. Request personalized training as this will allow you to get the most for your money. This way the consultant can focus on your needs and questions directly.
Use caution when reviewing “package” deals or “group trainings” as they do not provide a that personal connection with the consultant. The resources offered may be useful, but to truly feel prepared to take on a caseload of students/clients, and to do it professionally, 1:1 training is the most cost- and time- effective way to go.
- What is the consultant’s experience with technology?
Is s/he aware of the most current trends? Platforms? Documentation? Billing? If the consultant isn’t completely comfortable with technology, how can s/he train you to be comfortable?
Being able to troubleshoot and problem-solve is critical while providing telepractice services. Is the consultant willing to share a time s/he struggled with technology and explain how s/he overcame the challenge? Can the consultant provide you with a list of ways to troubleshoot common tech difficulties that can arise during telepractice? If not, I would suggest you continue shopping.
- Does the consultant have an up-to-date website for his/her company?
You will want to research your consultant before paying for his/her services. He/She should have a website with descriptions of the services offered. Client testimonials should be available to read, and I encourage you to search for them. Also consider the website itself. Has the consultant put time and money into the website, in your opinion? Does it look professional? When you look at the website, do you develop a feeling that the consultant takes his/her role very seriously? What type of information or resources are offered there? If you are not impressed, keep shopping.
- After talking or meeting with the consultant during a free, complimentary appointment, do you feel a personal connection?
During that first meeting, you should be able to feel some type of connection on a personal level. Does s/he put you at ease? Are they relaxed or nervous speaking with you? Does the consultant seem excited to share his/her telepractice knowledge with you? Online courses can be a good source of information, but there is nothing like that personal connection with someone, allowing you to ask questions, making you smile or feel a bit more relaxed as you speak with him/her about telepractice.
- Price shop!
Does the consultant have a “package” deal? Offer recorded courses? These resources can provide support when considering telepractice, but the best way to learn is “hands-on.” Research has shown that people learn best when they are able to have a “hand’s-on” (engaging) approach when learning a new skill.
Look for a consultant that offers you 1:1 sessions, allowing you to try strategies, materials, and techniques while s/he is with you but also asks you practice on your own between training sessions. Will s/he provide you with the base knowledge, adding new skills to practice, and building upon those in order to develop your confidence? It is a process of scaffolding.
Finding a consultant that has a strong training background, is knowledgeable about current telepractice trends, and that you “connect” with can be tricky. Asking the right questions can make the difference between hiring someone that is “just ‘OK’” to actually getting the most “Bang for your buck!” Look at the consultant’s website, read the testimonials, look over the resources offered to get a feel for that person’s level of expertise. Is the consultant able to identify your individual needs? The only way to find out is to ask.